Archive for April, 2010

What is the Proper Role of General Managers in Private Clubs?

Monday, April 26th, 2010

I’m probably going out on a limb with this blog, but I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what is the proper role for a club General Manager.  I recognize that there is no single right answer to this question, that it depends to a great deal on the strengths and weaknesses of the individual, the size and organization of the club, as well as the desires and direction of the club’s board.  Nevertheless, here’s my stab at it along with my rationale.

General Managers of private clubs wear a lot of hats and tend to be involved in a large number of ongoing day-to-day operational activities and issues.  This involvement seems to flow from various organizational deficiencies:

  • Some department heads need a lot of guidance to properly run their departments. The GM must get involved because a subordinate manager created problems. This is usually a direct result of poor training and leadership development.
  • The organization of work at clubs is inadequate or inefficient, requiring frequent GM interventions. This is a result of a lack of or inadequately implemented operating systems and training of subordinate managers.
  • The GM gets involved in responding to complaints about poor member service. This is usually a result of inadequate staff training for which the department heads are responsible.
  • The GM does not have sufficient reporting mechanisms to monitor the performance of the club departments. This masks problems that arise and grow undetected, eventually blowing up, and ultimately requiring time-consuming GM intervention and involvement. If the GM is only using the monthly operating statement to monitor performance, he is flying blind to the details of his operation and does not have real-time information upon which to take action and base decisions. A properly implemented system of departmental benchmarks and reports would help with this problem.
  • The difficulty of holding department heads accountable for the performance of their departments, which leads to toleration of weak department heads and poor performing departments. Without work plans with measurable accountabilities and benchmarks any attempt to hold subordinates accountable is dependent upon weak and subjective evaluations.

The miring of General Managers in day-to-day operational problems prevents them from engaging their key strategic responsibilities.

The following is my list of the strategic requirements of a club General Manager:

1.       In conjunction with the club Board of Directors, establishing the club culture, mission, vision, guiding principles and operating standards of the club.

2.       Establishing a strategic plan to accomplish the same.

3.       Providing the Board with timely and accurate information and routine reports to help them fulfill their requirements to oversee the operation.

4.       Managing member perceptions by maintaining a visible presence in the operation and communicating frequently and thoroughly with the membership.

5.       Maximizing membership sales by ensuring that a “stretch” marketing plan is developed and that the Membership Sales Director provides ongoing reports detailing efforts to generate leads, qualify prospects, and close membership sales.

6.       Establishing and ensuring compliance with club operating standards, policies, and procedures (the operations plan).

7.       Providing ongoing strategic thinking, planning, and decision making.

8.       Implementing and maintaining a discipline of thorough planning and continual process improvement.

9.       Establishing annual operating and capital budgets to guide the financial performance of the club.

10.   Establishing and ensuring implementation or execution of club culture, club annual plan, annual operating and capital budgets, and department head work plans.

11.   Establishing monthly review of departmental operating performance, ongoing departmental benchmarks, Tools to Beat Budget, and other indicators of operating performance.

12.   Monitoring and establishing accountability for operating performance of all departments.

13.   Establishing consistent club-wide leadership and professional development of department heads and supervisors to include:

a.       Training (leadership development, club culture, legal compliance issues [sexual harassment, appropriate interview questions, disciplinary procedures, etc.], liability abatement issues [safety, food sanitation, hazardous material handling, responsible alcohol service, etc.], and club organizational issues).

b.       Work planning by developing meaningful goals, work plans, and objective measures of performance.

c.       Mentoring of key subordinates to take on some of the GM’s duties.

d.       Monitoring performance using Tools to Beat Budget and monthly benchmarks and reports from subordinates.

e.       Conducting meaningful reviews tied to work plan accomplishment and operational performance.

f.        Establishing accountability based upon meeting work plans and performance goals.

14.   Establishing and ensuring staff development to include:

a.       Initial training in club culture, liability abatement issues, and position skills training.

b.       Ongoing training in same.

c.       Employee empowerment.

15.   Establishing and maintaining the means to continually communicate with constituencies.

16.   Ensuring department heads topgrade talent by using Disciplined Hiring and Screen for Success when recruiting, screening, and hiring.

17.   Ensuring appropriate internal controls.

18.   Ensuring the cleanliness, upkeep, and maintenance of all club facilities, grounds, furniture, fixtures, and equipment.

19.   Ensuring a safe operation for employees and members.

20.   Ensuring the club’s legal compliance with all aspects of federal, state, and local laws such as FLSA, FMLA, ADA, EEOC, youth employment, alcohol laws, food sanitation, etc.

21.   Establishing and maintaining a continually fresh and robust schedule of activity programming for members of all ages and interests.

22.   Ongoing professional self-development per self-developed work plan presented to and approved by the club Board of Directors.

As can be seen from the foregoing list of requirements, a club General Manager has much to do – primarily in guiding the direction, quality, and performance of the club.  Given the scope of these large responsibilities, GMs cannot afford to be bogged down in the day-to-day details of the operation – this detail is the job of individual department heads.

Though it is often a challenging and time-consuming process to organize the operation, train subordinate managers to fulfill their responsibilities, and maintain the high standards to which all clubs aspire, ultimately the time spent developing managers and establishing the disciplines of a well-run club are worth the effort.  No General Manager can do it all and must depend upon subordinate managers to do their jobs properly to give him or her time to focus on strategic issues.

Jim Collins, in his groundbreaking book Good to Great:  Why Some Companies Make the Leap . . . and Others Don’t, identified the critical success factors of great companies.  One of those factors was the need for “disciplined people taking disciplined action.”  In other words, the entire management staff must understand the full requirements of their positions and execute them in a disciplined way – that is, routinely and without being told.  Only then can the chief executive focus on the long term health and direction of the company.  While Collins’ book addressed large publicly traded companies, I’m convinced the same principles apply just as much in the challenging world of private club management.

Having put my thoughts out there, I’m anxious to hear other opinions.  Post a comment or send your thoughts to

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the club industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers — those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking club managers throughout the country and around the world.

Club Resources International – Management Resources for Clubs!

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21 Ways to Boost Your Golf Business

Monday, April 19th, 2010

Here are twenty-one ways to boost rounds at daily fee and semi-private golf courses.

  1. Increase benefits of memberships to drive # of memberships.  Increasing membership benefits may make them more attractive, causing more players to join.
  2. Target area businesses for an Employee Appreciation Day outing.  Prepare a letter and send to local companies proposing an outing.  Package the golf, prizes, and F&B to make it easy for companies to say “yes.”
  3. Target area business for a Company Golf Team League.  Each team would require 4 players.  Prepare a letter to local businesses explaining the league, format of competition, dates to play, package cost to sponsor a team.  Also, use display ads to market leagues.
  4. Interclub League play in various categories (seniors, men, women, and youths).  Sound out membership for players to play in matches against other clubs and golf courses.  Coordinate league play with other clubs and golf courses.  Establish pricing, prizes, and schedule of play.
  5. Work with competitors and local hotel to put together and co-op out-of-towner golf package – 3 days, 2 nights of golf.  Price package, coordinate with other courses and hotel.  Market during winter months in selected NE or Midwest golf markets to try to improve winter play.
  6. Beginners’ Golf Package – “Learn to Play in Six Easy Weeks” – Lessons, rounds, club fitting and sale, pairings with other beginners.  Set up package, market through web site and display ads.  An excellent promotion for spring; also works for youth golf during summer months.
  7. Free swing evaluation – with written evaluation from the pro.  Establish standardized form to use to identify the problems of a golfer’s swing and how to correct.  Focus on stance, grip, swing mechanics, exercises to address each noted problem.
  8. Go after County and City employees.  Special discount with ID card.  Establish a County and City golf team; include them in Company Golf Team League.  Or, simply set up a weekly time for such employees to play at a discount; could be a 9-hole round after work during summer month.
  9. Through benchmarking determine all times when the course is most empty and available for play.  These times should be discounted and marketed for price sensitive players.
  10. Package reasonably priced mini-outings limited to a dozen or so players. Market these for traditionally slow days.  Make the package all-inclusive with golf and cart fees, box lunches, beverages, and prizes.
  11. Build a mailing list of non-profits (churches and service organizations), businesses, core golfers, veterans, etc.  Start with phone book and query current membership.  Ensure that you are familiar enough with MS-Word Mail Merge and Mailing List functions to quickly produce and send flyers, letters, and other marketing material to selected mailing lists.
  12. Offer and advertise incentives to current members to bring in new members.  This should be part of our internal marketing effort to your membership.  Devise incentives and market them.
  13. Always collect email addresses of players and build a database of members and players to broadcast email announcements – “We still have Tee-times available this weekend.  The weather is forecasted to be great and we have a fun format event for Sunday afternoon.  Give us a call.” This type of last-minute marketing is used to fill empty tee times.  It can also be used during cooler or inclement weather to attract golfers at a discounted rate.
  14. Establish Competitive Flight Ladders.  Highly competitive golfers play to try to climb the ladder for bragging rights and a trophy.  Construct the ladder and prominently display it in the pro shop.  Results of all matches should be publicized in a newsletter, email blasts, and in the pro shop.
  15. Classify current golfers as “competitive” vs. “recreational” and design specific events for each.
  16. Use giveaways (inexpensive logoed items) for all first time visitors to course.
  17. Consider giving away rounds to try to build volume.  Free green fee, pay only cart fee.  This approach can be used at slow times of year, week, and days.  Establish guidelines, goals, and benchmarks to measure benefit.
  18. Build an annual calendar of events – “12-months of golf traditions” – one specially formatted tournament each month.  Most golfers use stroke play most of the time.  There are many other “fun” formats to be used.  Develop and schedule such “tournaments” for each month and market through emails, newsletter, web site, and display ads.  Visit for ideas.
  19. Offer “Weekend Golf” for a weekday price at certain times of the year.  Using past benchmarks, identify the times of year to offer this; market through emails, newsletter, web site, and display ads.
  20. Market to area hotels for “golf specials for their guests.”  Develop a list of local hotels and motels and establish a relationship with their management to allow their guests to play at a discounted rate and free rental clubs.
  21. Find a stay at home parent or someone looking for part time employment with clerical skills to execute marketing efforts such as direct mail.  Given the administrative burden on the Head and Assistant Pro, it may make sense to hire and develop someone who can quickly react to opportunities and execute a predetermined marketing effort – web site, emails, flyers, mailers, and display ads.

The two most important aspects of marketing excess capacity and open times on your course are to build an email database of players and to recognize your course’s use patterns through continual benchmarking.  The email list will become your most prized possession and can be used to notify players of events and periods of discounted play.  But to take advantage of the timeliness of open tee times, you must have a variety of promotional programs and messages ready to go at a moment’s notice.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the club industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers — those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking club managers throughout the country and around the world.

Club Resources International – Management Resources for Clubs!

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Guest Blog: How Technology is Changing the Way Clubs Hire

Monday, April 12th, 2010

This guest blog is excerpted from a White Paper by the same title.

Three major factors are driving change in the employment landscape today.  They are the Economy, Technology, and Communication. These three forces will change nearly everything you know about hiring and employment. The effects they have are happening now.

Let’s start with the economy. Obvious to everyone at this point is the fact that we are undeniably in a recession which plays a major role in how we recruit, hire, manage, compensate and retain employees.

Secondly, we are in the midst of a major revolution in technology and the way it is used in our daily lives. This is true from both a personal and professional perspective and affects nearly every aspect of the hiring process.

Finally, the way we communicate and interact with others has undergone drastic changes which have a tremendous effect on all employment related processes.

Based on these three factors, here are the top six predicted changes that will affect the way you recruit, hire and employ at your club.

1.   Increased Employment Litigation.  As clubs continue to reduce staff levels in an effort to meet shrinking budgets, litigation will rise. It will become very important to carefully evaluate your hiring, employment and termination practices to protect your club.

2.   More Important to “Hire Right.”  It will become increasingly important to hire the right person. Hiring will take on a more “holistic” approach, looking not only for the right skill set and experience, but also for the right “fit” and “personality.” As staffs are reduced and hires become fewer, the value of a good hire goes up. Likewise, the cost of a bad hire goes up.

3.   Technology Will Play a Bigger Role.  Due to both of the above factors and an overwhelming number of applicants, recruiting, and interviewing will be much more time consuming. Making a hiring decision will naturally be more difficult. Technology will help hiring managers take control and ensure they are acquiring the best talent.

4.   Shift in Recruitment Methods.  We have already seen a huge shift how potential employees and employers connect. The internet has completely changed the game. Both job seekers and hiring managers now utilize personal and professional networks, online profiles and specialty job boards to find a position.

5.   Personal/Professional Life Blurs.  Whether you like it or not, our lives are becoming more transparent and the line between our personal and professional life is quickly blurring. This presents quite a paradox. On the one hand, we fear for our privacy rights through ID cards, cameras, and other monitoring while on the other hand we voluntarily publish personal details about our lives and relationships on the internet for the entire world to see.

6.   Social Media More Critical To Hiring Process.  Social media is already playing a major role in the employment process and the importance of this role is rapidly increasing. Who you are and what you do online will become more of a factor related to hiring and getting hired.

When we make a hire, whether it be a server, groundskeeper or department head, we do not want to be forced to reinvent the wheel each time. We want to have a progressive system in place that yields consistent results and helps us make the best hire with the most talent in the shortest amount of time.

What can you do to stack the odds in your favor? Here are the top five tips to better hiring:

1.       Build an Optimized Careers Site within your Club Website.  Your careers site can and should be an extension of your club site. Ideally, it should create a vision of what it is like to work at your club, all job postings are current, and it allows for online applications.

2.       Use PUSH Technology When Posting Positions.  By pushing out to free job boards, you will extend your reach to potential applicants at no cost to the club!

3.       Capture Applicant Information into a Database.  This requires an application management system” sometimes referred to as an “applicant tracking” or “hiring process management” system. With the recession and increasing ease of internet-based applications, the number of job seekers responding to each job posting has risen dramatically.  A database and automated process of screening will drastically reduce your hiring workload.

4.       Use Job Alerts to Build a Passive Applicant Pool.  This next tip may be the most valuable one.  People with an interest in working at your club can ask to be notified of openings in which they have interest. This will enable your club to keep potential employees alerted every time you post a new opening.

5.       Leverage Social Media to Make Better Hires.  The two most important ways Social Media is impacting hiring are communicating/connecting with potential employees and vetting prospective employees. Understanding this phenomenon is essential to your hiring only the “right” people for your club.

The world of employment has and continues to experience drastic change. There is more competition for jobs due to a declining economy, the cost of making bad hires is increasing, the importance of making good hires is increasing, and technology is completely changing the way the game is played.

Don’t let these changes and opportunities pass you by. Be proactive and move quickly to leverage these new and exciting approaches to ensure you are hiring simpler, better and more effectively.

You will find the improvements in attracting more high quality applicants, shortening the time to hire; relieving the administrative burden and eliminating traditional recruitment costs will produce an almost immediate ROI for your club!

Click here to read the full White Paper.

Tom Howard, President, ClubPay

Tom has worked in the private club industry for over 20 years working in various positions within private country clubs including food and beverage manager, general manager and director of operations. For ten years, Tom has helped over 600 clubs “get the most out of technology” in his role as Vice President of Technology Training Associates (TTA), the largest provider of the Jonas Software in the country.

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the club industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers — those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking club managers throughout the country and around the world.

Club Resources International – Management Resources for Clubs!

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Assert Your Competence and Authority with Benchmarks

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

(I apologize to those who follow my regular weekly blog.  A lightning strike Sunday night fried my motherboard and modem.  I’m just getting back up and running this morning.  Here’s the blog that should have been posted Monday morning:)

At one time or another every club manager’s abilities are challenged by a pointed question from a committee or board member.  For example:

Mrs. Johnson, a member of the clubhouse committee, asks in a sharp tone, “Mr. Smith, why don’t you do a better job of training your waiters in the dining room?”

While there are certainly many possible responses to this complaint disguised as a question, consider the benefits of a reply like this:

“Well, Mrs. Johnson, last year each of our servers had 20 hours of formal training, plus we conduct brief on-the-go training sessions as part of every pre-shift meeting.  On average each server who has been with us for six months or more has had over 40 hours of job specific training.  Last year, club-wide we averaged just over 92 hours per employee of formal training on a wide range of topics, including organizational values, legal and liability abatement, work rules and club policies, and safety, as well as job-specific skills.  This was a 7% increase over the previous year.  We’re currently working on a program to expand server training with a series of videos on tableside etiquette and serving techniques, which we’ll roll out next month.  We’re always working on ways to improve the efficiency of our training delivery system, but keep in mind that every hour of training costs the club $10.47.  I’d be happy to share our methods, resources, and job specific curriculum with you, as we could always use another set of eyes on what we’re doing.”

Mrs. Johnson nods her head knowingly and replies in a much softer tone, “Uh . . . no thanks, Mr. Smith.  I was just wondering how we go about training our staff.”

As this example suggests, there is no better way to assert your competence and authority than to be conversant with a wide range of operational data.  Such information is as useful to the head golf professional, golf course superintendent, clubhouse manager, dining room supervisor, chef, and controller, as it is for the club’s General Manager.

But to have such information at your fingertips, ready for any and all challenges, requires that every club department benchmark their operations in detail.  While these details are absolutely essential to the department head, important summary benchmarks must be forwarded monthly to the controller for inclusion in the Executive Metrics Report.  This report is then attached to the monthly financial statement and forwarded to various board and committee members.  Ultimately this information, tracked over time, educates board members and helps the General Manager establish his authority while advancing his vision and agenda for the club.

Knowledge is Power!  And the more knowledge you have about your operations, the more power and control you will have over the club’s direction and your own destiny.  So avail yourself of the great variety of benchmarking resources available on the Club Resources International website and start benchmarking your operation today!

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the club industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers — those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking club managers throughout the country and around the world.

Club Resources International – Management Resources for Clubs!

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